Medsphere Team

EMR/PM Archive FAQ

June 13, 2019

Data Archival, MOS 4 Minute Read

Q: How should I start planning for an EMR or PM archive project

A: Start with an understanding of timelines for when the old system can be removed from a production environment.  Archived records are not changeable, so allow enough time for claims, patient balances, lab results, etc to be entered into the old system.  Since financial records are the last to resolve, it might be easier and faster to archive everything else first, them come back for the financial records.

Q: How do I get the data to you?

A: This depends on the application.  It could be that the application vendor will send enough data for us to archive.  Sometimes we need to get the data ourselves.  Retrieving data from on premise servers is generally easier and less expensive than from web based systems.

Q: What will the EMR archive record look like?

A: Typically, EMR archive records will look like a PDF document, preferably with indexing or bookmarks.  Patient records could be hundreds of pages long and physicians will need to both access the information quickly and see if there is any other additional information that needs to be accessed in the record.

EMR data archival output record

Q: Where is the archive hosted?

A: Archives are large PHI datasets and need to be secures to HIPAA standards.  Practices can host archives within their networks, practices can also opt for a hosted solution and access the records via web portal.  Commercial hosting is typically a more cost effective and secure option.

Q: How long do I need to keep my records?

A: Practices should always consult with their attorney regarding record retention and have a records retention policy as part of their business operations plans.

Q: Do I need to archive all of my data?

A: We would recommend that practices understand this with their attorneys.  Although our fees are generally not determined by number of records, not including records that are out of spec because of age means that you have less data to track and be at risk.  Think about payor audits & current audit log information when determining what needs to be archived, not just a statute of limitations for records.

Q: How are diagnostic images like MRIs that have been ordered kept in the archive system?

A: Diagnostic images are typically not part of the archive, just the interpretation.  These very large files should be archived where the imaging was done, and practices should understand the records retention policy of that facility.  Smaller scans like lab report of paper forms are included in most archives.

Q: How do I manage financial data for a system I want to archive?

A: Financial data should be managed in the original system with an A/R wind down project in place.  Practices should continue to bill in the old system but increase the number of contacts to the patients.  This will increase the frequency of payments and accelerate the time for closing the old system.  Financial data like claims, patient balances is generally not part of a system migration either.

Q: Do I need to pay for data to be extracted from my old PM or EMR system?

A: Maybe, vendors have different system architectures and user agreements.  Its always best to consult with the archive vendor first to find out what their skills are in obtaining the data without paying for an extract.  Check the end user license agreement signed with the contract from the EMR vendor.

Q: How do I know my archive system is complete?

A: The archive vendor should provide a data validation step where trial archive records are created and reviewed against the original data source.  Practices should keep their original data source as a backup in case something was missed in the archive.  Archive vendors should maintain the ability to read that source for several years.

Q: What are archive requirements for healthcare data that needs additional security, like mental health or addiction records?

A: Archives typically include data based on the original system.  Some functionality can be added by the archive vendor, however, these tend to be global in nature.  Practices should check with their attorneys for complete information.

Q: How should I pay for hosting the archived records?

A: Physicians will need to keep records for up to 20 years, especially when minor patients are treated.  Try to strike a pre-pay deal so that expenses can go back to the company (while it exists pre-retirement) and not be post tax in the years to come.

Q: I am retiring, can I host this on a machine in my home?

A: Since archive records are still protected under HIPAA laws, we would suggest to not do this.  We do offer hosting and there are other hosting services available that are cost effective and much more secure than the typical household computer.

Are you starting an archive project?  Schedule time with us to discuss here.

Learn more about our archive process here.

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